Sunday, September 21, 2008

What we do

CommunEcos evolved from yikes!YOU(th) Involved in Keeping Earth Sustainable a non-profit organization based in Durham, NC that fosters cross-generational community-based education and outreach to aid our society's transition to renewable forms of energy and low-carbon lifestyles. We seek to cross over race and class boundaries that have long hindered environmental advocacy.
We engage in hands-on projects to raise consciousness about the urgency of action on the energy/climate crisis that confronts us, and to promote awareness of alternatives to fossil fuels and carbon pollution.
We are in the process of getting our 501-c-3 status. For more information, contact Sandy Smith-Nonini, at

Educational Workshops

We offer interactive workshops on energy/climate themes for high school and college classes, and adult groups -- they are designed for older teens (ages 15-21) and up. In winter and spring 2010 we presented weekend workshops in the SUSTAIN series at the new Holton Parks and Recreation Center on N. Driver St. 

Green Literacy Training:  We are collaborating with The Forest Foundation and the Durham Economic Resource Ctr. on a project to green the DERC training program for hard-to-employ young adults. Funded by the Golden Leaf Foundation, this grant will allow us to organize a week of Green Literacy training for DERC students, followed by a week of Green Career Orientation, including three fieldtrips. We will also be planning a "Train the Trainer" program with DERC for people who wish to become Environmental Educators. These sessions will be repeated for future DERC cohorts in the spring and summer. Contact Marc Dreyfors or Sandy Smith-Nonini for more detail. (Email for more info).


Recent workshops on building a Sustainable Economy:
We are collaborating with the Black, Brown Green Alliance (BBGA) to assess interest in  "Slow Money" (alternative local lending for sustainable enterprises using a peer-to-peer model) in Durham. Since March 2011 we have been meeting once a month to develop a project in Durham.  We envision working with others to build a network of individuals willing to make small loans ($500 - $5000) for both "slow (sustainable) food" projects (using the "Slow Money" logo) and also non-food sustainability projects under the logo of "Dur-a-Bull Bucks." For more info on the next planned meeting, contact

Here's some info on how we started last fall:
Wed. Nov. 10 -- Our 3rd Interest Meeting was held at the Good Work office,  in Durham. It was attended by 13 people, and featured special guests: Jennifer Lazarus, of Lazarus Financial Planning; Dan Kennedy, of Carolina Microfinance project; & Alejandro Sanchez of  Latino Credit Union. We had two previous meetings with interested community members in September and August. At the last meeting, there was a consensus that we should continue this process, and we projected our next planning meeting for Jan. 2011.  If you would like to join this initiative, please email Sandy at  Special thanks to interns Dan Kennedy and Lauren Stewart, for their assistance with organizing the last two meetings.

Wed. Sept. 29 -- 2nd Interest meeting: Bringing "Slow Money" to Durham -- a collaboration with the Black, Brown Green Alliance -- We hosted this meeting at Sandy's house attended by 17 folks to discuss pros and cons of various models for starting an alternative lending program in Durham with the goals of promoting small-scale social enterprises that are environmentally sustainable and help create green jobs.  This meeting grew out of a workshop sponsored by Durham Parks & Rec that we held in August -- see below.
Sat Aug. 7th-- Eco-Economics: Getting from Price to Value; 
 We aspire to triple-bottom lines and sustainable development, yet growth remains the capitalist mantra. So what's the alternative? Does local matter? Do worker co-ops work? Where can you borrow to start a sustainable business? This workshop will explore working models of alternative economics and share insights from the annual mtg. of BALLE (Business Alliance for a Local Living Economy) which two of us attended recently in Charleston, SC. Plus, Carol Hewitt will discuss an exciting new "slow-money" lending project in Chatham Co. that folks want to replicate in Durham! Slide show & panel discussion that will involve all participants. Leaders: Sandy Smith-Nonini, Carol Hewitt, Dawn Trembath, &; Donald Nonini.
Bios: Carol, co-founded the new Abundance Slow Money Project (combines a social mission with low interest lending for sustainable enterprises); Sandy & Don teach anthropology at UNC-CH, & Don co-directs a NSF research project on the NC sustainable food movement, and Sandy coordinates YIKES! (You(th) Involved in Keeping Earth Sustainable), Dawn is a Fellow at Good Work, a non-profit that supports social entrepreneurship.

Sponsors: YIKES! ( & Durham Parks & Recreation.


The YIKES! "Sustain" Workshop series in 2009-2010 were sponsored by the City of Durham’s Parks & Recreation Dept.; and held at the Holton Career & Resource Center, 401 N. Driver St., Durham, NC 27703

Workshops held during winter-spring 2010:

Kwanzaa Celebration Workshop: “Ancient Wisdom: What our Ancestors Knew that We Forgot”

Sunday December 27, 2009  2pm - 3pm

Black History Month Celebration  Workshop: ”Green Jobs: Finding Opportunity in Crisis”

Sunday February 7, 2010   2pm-3pm

Women's History Month Celebration  Workshop: "Closing the Loop: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”

Sunday March 14, 2010 2pm-3pm

Saturday Morning SUSTAIN series:
January 23, 2010 
“WATTS UP!! Cutting your utility bill down to size!"
10:30am-12:30pm  -------------------
February 6, 2010

“Solar solutions for your house: hot water and air heating”

10:30am-12:30pm  -----------------
March 6, 2010

“Out of Gas: The Bad News about Fossil Fuels"

10:30am-12:30pm  ----------------
April 3, 2010

“Making Fuel from Waste Vegetable Oil: Biodiesel Power!”

10:30am-12:30pm  -----------------
May 1, 2010

"Water Wise: Saving Money and Surviving the next Drought"

10:30am-12:30pm ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
Other workshop themes we offer: “Climate Change: Science & Policy for a Human Future” (w/ slides/video shorts)  “Oil, War & American Power: What Energy Has To Do With It” (w/ film)  ”The Stuff in Our Heads: Rethinking "Community" and "Value" (slides) “Not-So-Green Revolutions: Contradictions of Industrial Farming” (slides/video shorts) “All You Can Eat -- Re-inventing Local Food Systems” (slides/video) “Assault on Paradise: Why Rainforests & Biodiversity Matter”  “Globalize This! - 'Free' Trade or 'Fair?' - You Decide" (slides; video)  Standard workshop: 2 hours - presentation w/ visuals (video or slides), and discussion; followed by learning lab: interactive or service activity on biodiesel, recycling, alternative energy. Workshops must be arranged in advance. Intensive workshop: 3 hours, also w/ visuals and interactive pedagogy. Email for more info/rates and to schedule interactive workshops w/ high schools/community groups.   
Mentoring Programs: We mentor a small number of high school, college and young adult volunteers and interns engaged in long term service or research projects that align with our goals (usually a minimum of 30 hours volunteer time/3 months). We can assist students in arranging class credit if their schools have service learning or independent research programs.  We also invite artistic young people to join our Recyclique co-op and attend upcycling sessions. See Recyclique page. There are opportunities to earn cash for your creations, and also to learn to use new tools and techniques, how to oversee quality control, market products, and do customer relations.
Work skills/Entrepreneurship: Marc Dreyfors, director of GreenWay Transit & Carolina Biodiesel, runs a mentoring program for neighborhood teens who earn money on site while learning basic workplace skills and the principles of sustainability. We also assist student and adult entrepreneurs to develop ongoing green co-op or business projects. Our goal is to create economically self-sustaining projects that benefit the environment as well as those who put their time into projects, while strengthening our educational programs and the economy of Northeast Central Durham.
See Scheduling a Workshop page for information on faculty/scheduling, etc.

Past Projects - 2008 - 2009

Thanks to rain barrel sales and many hours of donated labor, we purchased a digital projector for doing slide shows and videos in fall 2008! And we can now offer customized educational workshops on sustainabilty themes for high school classes, scout troops, church groups, or other community groups that do programming for teens or young adults. Since the fall we have developed two major projects with help from interns, volunteers and community partners: Recyclique and the Feed My Sheep Community Garden project. See pages specific to those projects for details . . .

We also worked with Marion Brisk's mini-term class at NC School of Science & Math to build a solar space heater -- see the video students made from their experience. Testing the heater's efficiency comes next.

Solar Hot Water Lab: We are networking with a team of community volunteers, solar installers and high school science students for a 2-phase project. Phase I is to install a solar hot water system for Carolina Biodiesel, which will heat vegetable oil (speeding up the reaction that produces biodiesel), and serve as a demonstration module on site for future educational purposes. In the process we'll learn about the physics and hands-on skills of solar hot water systems. Phase II of the project is to build and test a low cost "appropriate technology" solar hot water system with the goal of making the technology more widely available. Chris Allen, is helping to pull a team together to work on this in spring 09. In May we moved around the corner to a new site on S. Goley St., but this project remains an option at the new site!